Our School of Science and Math has a tradition of holding a pot luck lunch in one of the larger biology teaching labs every “reading day” in the middle of finals week. It’s a decent social event, and all faculty and staff are invited.
I used to go most of the time, though after dropping off my food I’d leave and come back fifteen minutes late, to avoid the food line. Last year, however, I stuck around. And a couple of staff members opened the event with a prayer. I got pissed off, and this year I didn’t show up at all.
Now, in one sense, the prayer is understandable. A rather conservative Christianity is the local culture, and it is close to Christmas. This is what almost all the staff, and a significant minority of the faculty, expect and are comfortable with. Still, to me it seemed like shoving religion in my face at the time. Perhaps I overreacted, but still, I was left with the taste that I wasn’t entirely welcome. It isn’t my damn culture, and I’m not a visitor or a tourist who would just observe the local folkways and move on.
I didn’t make a fuss, but today I wasn’t there. I don’t intend to go back. But I’m really not sure about the etiquette of such matters. Perhaps I’m still overreacting…